Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Crohn’s can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it is more commonly found at the end of the small intestine (the ileum) where it joins the beginning of the large intestine (or colon). It can also affect the eyes, skin and joints.
Crohn’s disease treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery.
Drug therapy focuses on medications to suppress inflammation (ie: steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and biologic DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs). Some of these drugs have serious side effects and often the risks outweigh the benefits.
Surgery simply removes the inflamed tissue.
These options may provide remission for some period of time before the next attack.
There is no established cause or cure for Crohn’s disease.
Functional Medicine Management of Crohn’s Disease
A thorough evaluation of the patient’s signs and symptoms related to the dysfunction in the intestinal tract is necessary and referral to a medical specialist may be needed.
Functional Medicine assessment may include some or all of the following:
- Comprehensive stool analysis and stool microbiology assay to rule out pathogenic bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection
- Assessment of related gut conditions, such as intestinal permeability and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in conditions involving gas and bloating
- Routine blood chemistry to assess inflammatory markers and other organ function that impact the gut (such as thyroid function)
- Food sensitivity testing and nutritional analysis to assess for nutrient deficiencies
- Monitoring the inflammation involved in IBD without undergoing intestinal biopsy
Functional Medicine management of Crohn’s disease is focused on the following:
- Decreasing inflammation and promoting normal immune responses
- Balancing the gut flora
- Improving gut barrier function
- Improving digestion and absorption of food with intestinal enzyme support
- Normalizing motility/movement of the intestines
A number of specific probiotic strains have been shown to be helpful in relieving symptoms of IBS and can be helpful to restore balance to the gut flora.
Digestive enzymes are often used to support proper digestion of nutrients in order to minimize incomplete digestion and malabsorption, which can aggravate IBS.
Nutrients to regenerate the epithelial lining
There are a range of plant compounds, vitamins and minerals that have been shown to have a restorative effect on a damaged intestinal barrier and a proper selection and regime can be very effective.
Various herbal compounds can be effective in reducing intestinal spasm and the proper choice can be helpful with this condition.
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating compounds
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating herbs and nutritional compounds to decrease excessive immune responses can be very helpful.
Nutrients to decrease food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are often associated with IBS and decreasing specific immune responses in the gut related to food sensitivity is often helpful.